Philanthropy Around The World: Spotlight On India

Philanthropy in India is playing a crucial role in overcoming some of the country’s social challenges

Experts predict that economic growth alone won’t be enough to achieve India’s development goals. On the contrary, India needs social impact at scale if it hopes to eradicate poverty and the many challenges affecting its poorer citizens. Recent estimates suggest that about 330 million Indians will remain in relative poverty in 2050, even if the country manages to sustain its current economic growth rate.

In recent years India has developed a strong philanthropic momentum as a result of focused efforts from government and active civil society participation. Expectations are that private philanthropy will act as a catalyst to increase government spending, as well as help ensure timely and effective philanthropic fund deployment, with greater accountability and monitoring.

Funding from individual philanthropists in Indian has seen strong growth in recent years, according to the Bain Philanthropy Report 2019, with individuals contributing 60% of total private philanthropic funding. However, a significant portion of this comes from just a few philanthropists who lead the way in terms of individual giving.

The most notable Indian philanthropist is Azim Premji, chairman of software company, Wipro, who gave away 34% of the shares of his business. To date Premji has given away US$21 billion to philanthropic causes. The Azim Prenji Foundation supports educational initiatives in some of India’s most disadvantaged regions with the aim of improving the quality of government (public) schooling. In addition the foundation supports other not-for-profit organisations through multi-year financial grants.

Premji was the first Indian citizen to sign The Giving Pledge, which was created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to invite the world’s richest individuals to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes.

Other Indian philanthropists include the managing director of Bioconm Kiran Mazumder-Shaw, who has pledged to give away 75% of her US$3.5 billion fortune, and co-founder of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, who has pledged to give away 50% of his US$2.1 billion fortune.

A number of Indian philanthropists are moving away from so-called ‘chequebook giving’ to address social problems in a bold way. In 2014, for example, the executive vice chairman of Infosys, Kris Gopalakrishnan, established the Centre for Brain Research in Bengaaluru via a US$38.5 million investment over a 10-year period. The aim of the centre is to dramatically advance neuroscience research specific to India and in the process help develop treatment for those suffering from dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.

Google and Tata Trust’s Internet Saathi programme, on the other hand, empowers local women to train rural women to use the Internet. Another Tata Trust initiative enlists local women to help tribal households to rise out of poverty.

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